Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Great Colorado Blow(n)out 2011

Made my annual trip out to the Rockies to visit with the family towards the middle of June. My real focus for the trip was to be the Blue River beneath the Dillon Reservoir dam in the town of Silverthorne. I flew into Denver International the afternoon of the 6th and made the quick drive up to Breckenridge, where our rental was located. The next day would be the first of nine consecutive days fishing the waters of central and southern Colorado.

Day 2: Getting a Taste of the Blue

Having watched the flows steadily ramp up before I left, seeing the river in its raging nastiness wasnt exactly a shock, but it was a bummer. Normal fishing flows here are 200-400 and it was pinned at 1300 cfs for the entire time I was there! What this meant was very few fishable spots, that were obviously spaced far apart, and quite small. The only small benefit is that the fish were stacked up pretty well in these small slackwater areas. The first day was slow, 3 fish to hand, and several more that pulled off in the heavy current. My best fish of the day was my last, a gorgeous Brown, that despite how it looks in the picture, was just shy of 23 inches. It slunk out from under an undercut bank to choke a sz18 Mysis Shrimp pattern of my own design. What a spectacular fish, but I'm bummed that this was the best picture I could muster.

Day 3: Strugglin on the Blue with the Uncles

After regailing my uncles Steve and Scott with tales of shrimp eating monsters, I convinced them to set out with me to the river. We had a good day, neither of them flyfish moving waters a lot, and neither of them had much experience nymphing under an indicator. We spent most of the day with two of us watching the other fish what tiny little pockets we could find. We all got bit, I lost a couple. Nobody got one to the net. We fished hard, moving up and down the river until, at the end of the day, we finally tucked tail and headed to the Blue above the reservoir and Scott and I managed to poke a couple little ones in the swirling Yoo-Hoo.

Day 4: Insomnia Trip

I had intended to go and fish the Williams Fork's confluence with the Colorado and the reservoir as well a bit later in the trip, but I found myself stressed and unable to sleep this night, so by six a.m. I was on the road.

After an awesome drive up over Ute Pass. I found myself at the parking area and ambling down through the ranch that sits at the confluence. There is some sort of easement, but it feels kinda weird walking right through the middle of someones property, especially because I grew up on a ranch myself.

Of course, the epic seam at the confluence that I intended to fish had a couple guys flailing away when I arrived, so I ambled upstream. The water was ripping, but it was pretty clear, and there were spots to fish. On my first cast of the day, behind a very small island of willows gave a slight tick on the indo and I lifted into some pretty good weight. At nearly that exact moment, my phone's alarm started blaring and after a bit i smashed the buttons randomly through my jacket until it shut the hell up. I fought the fish admirably, passing my rod around willows and nearly getting swept downstream several times, until it had me at the top of a very fast rapid, with no way to continue following it downstream. I made the call to put the screws to it and get it to the net. As soon as the sz 20 baetis popped free of it's face, my alarm again sounded. My snooze is set for 7 minutes, but it felt like a longer battle than that. It was definitely the biggest rainbow I have hooked in moving water. I wasnt super bummed that I lost it, we had both given it our all, and the brute proved superior. Good times. I rebounded by quickly sticking a few nice browns.

A quick sideline that I feel I have to make. After nearly three hours of fishing up the river's mediocre stretch, I returned to the confluence and the same 2 guys hadnt budged. That is bullshit, they knew I was there, they knew I wanted a shot at that run, so they camped it out all morning. That is just bad form, and pretty shitty stream etiquette. So, having had a rough couple months, I informed them that they were assholes. They did not entirely jump on board with my opinion, but hopefully they wont pull that crap on someone next time. There is nothing wrong with fishing a spot for a long time. But boxing someone else out all day is just crappy etiquette.


My day improved rapidly as I went bombing down the dusty roads with big beautiful views and mountains all around.

Day 5: Quick Shot

Wasnt much of a fishing day. My uncle Scott and I hit the upper Blue for a couple hours. It was really blown and fairly dirty, but I did manage a couple of little browns. Had a great time though, just hanging out with him and helping him with his nymphing technique. There was some excellent *ahem* "scenery" along the jogging path too.

Day 6: Change of Pace

This day I left the family in Breck and headed back to DIA to pick up my swimbaiting buddy Steve. We immediately bee lined it for Horseshoe lake in Lathrop State Park in search of the illusive Tiger Muskie. When we arrived, a trout fisherman was weighing a 16lb Tiger on the visitor center scale. Our hopes were lifted, but I wasnt holding my breath, and that turned out to be a good thing. We took turns with the big bait rod, alternately throwing several baits, but spending most of our time with the 9" Rising Sun in white.

We both managed a single bite, neither of which stuck. But it was still fun. I have wanted to catch a muskie forever, so I guess I can wait a bit longer.

Day 7: Unintentional Trespassing

After some great mexican food and a sketchy motel in Walsenburg, we headed over the hill to Sanchez Reservoir in search of Northern Pike on the fly for me and the big bait for Steve.

Steve got it started pretty quick with a nice little pike on the small Rising Son.

Soon thereafter, I got into a pretty good one on the fly. Probably 7-8 lbs and it popped loose. I threw a fit like a little girl and smacked my rod on the water, thus breaking the tip off. Nice. Now I had to fish the rest of the day with a broken rod. Awesome.

The wind was absolutely howling, and I could only cast directly into it. If I tried to go to the side, all kinds of bad things happened. It was all I could do to punch a 40fter out there, but it was enough to get a couple little hammer handles back to me.

At one point, driving around the lake, we came to an open gate. There was a no trespassing sign, but between the open gate and the orientation of the sign, it made it seem that the land to one side of the road was private but not the whole area. So we went on through. A couple hours later, we mosey on out to find the gate securely padlocked, and ourselves locked in. No cell service, and a probable trespassing ticket. Awesome. Thankfully our loaner vehicle came equipped with a tool kit, and I come equipped with a desire to not get ticketed and the ability to improvise. After quickly disassembling and reassembling one of the hinges, we got the hell out of dodge. Beware the open gate people.

Day 8: The Mineral County Slam

After leaving Sanchez we procured a room at the Spruce Inn in South Fork. After several beers and a lot of fish talk with the ex-guide owner of The Shaft (bar) Brad, we headed to bed and readied ourselves for a 3 stop trip through the Creede area. The Rio Grande was real big, angry, and chocolatey but we each managed a little brown. After a couple hours, we headed for the Sowards Ranch. I spent a ton of time here as a kid, we use to run our cattle up there in the summer. The owners remembered me and let us on the water for free, which was really nice.

I caught several nice little browns, and missed a bunch of others. But overall the fishing was a little slow, and I knew what our third stop was capable of, so we bugged out after a couple hours. A quick drive across the valley brought me to a big bow haunt that I know pretty well. These lakes are full of big streamer chompin bows.

Within a few minutes I had a tight line. This tight line was followed by many many others for the both of us. It was retarded. Big nasty bows doing backflips all afternoon and into the darkness. Silliness. My big one was 25 inches and an estimated 5.5 lbs. But I bet we had 8 or 10 over 4 pounds. Maybe 40 fish to hand? I dont know. So much fun.

Day 9: The Scenic Drive

This day. I loved this day. The plan was to take a very long drive of 40+ miles through the southern San Juan range on dusty dirt roads and pop out on the Conejos River near Platoro reservoir. The drive was gorgeous.

It was a lot of fun as we took our time, stopping to fish a few little creeks looking to see if they had cutthroat in them. They didnt, but they did have some little brookies. About 35 miles into our journey, nearly there, we came to a big ass snowdrift that we wouldnt have made it over. Great. We had to backtrack out, then drive the long way around, adding about an hour and a half to our drive time. Boo. We stopped in at Conejos River Anglers and talked to Devan, who was really helpful. We grabbed a couple of big foam salmonflies and headed upriver. It of course was high, like everything else in the damn state, but there was some super fishy lookin stuff. There were a ton of baetis and salmonflies buzzing around, and not a damned fish to be caught. Ugh. Turns out that they had just completed some work on the dam, and had opened the gates wide open to test it that day. We were screwed. So we sat in the motel parking lot and thought over our options.

After much ho-humming we opted to drive halfway back across the state and fish the famed Taylor River the next morning. We drove up to Salida and found a place to stay.

Day 10: Taylor Dreams.... CRUSHED!

We woke up early and headed up over the amazing Cottonwood pass to the Taylor.

We got down to the dam, and for the first time feasted our eyes on the storied Taylor River. It was pretty. A little high yes, but clear and the most fishable piece of moving water I had seen all trip. We knew there was gonna be a bit of a crowd, but come on! Fishermen every 50ft on both sides of the stream for the first half mile! Oh well. Ive played this game on the Kenai and the E. Walker. Whatever. Staked out a spot under the bridge and immediately saw fish eating nymphs. I started working a deep trough with a couple of bugs and some shot and after a dozen drifts my indicator dipped under as the flies got to the cushion of a big boulder. Drew tight and immediately saw a BIG brown twisting around in the current. Only had it on for about 20 seconds before it broke me off on 4x, taking one of my little epoxy mysis with him. I was bummed, but hey, the day was just getting started, there would be more hookups.

No, there wouldnt be.

Oh well. I fished the Taylor. I saw the monsters. I lost the battle.

And that my friends was my trip to Colorado for the year. I drank a bunch of beer, I fished a bunch of drifts, I saw some beautiful country. It was great to see the family, and hang out with my buddy Steve somewhere besides the deck of a bassboat. I want to move back now more than ever. Gunnison? Golden? Buena Vista? Springs? I dont know, but the time is coming.


  1. I'm tellin' ya you need to write a book - and make it large enough to show off those great photos!

  2. Jay, that's a fun post for sure. Hey, check your e-mail and k - pm's. You mentioned a time about now to go after a certain fish. Just checking in.